Charlottesville photojournalist and University of Virginia employee Ézé Amos was among the hundreds of community members who experienced firsthand the trauma and chaos of the deadly Unite the Right rallies of Aug. 11 and 12, 2017.
As he witnessed the vitriol, violence, protests and counter-protests, Amos took photos – lots of them. This week, as the University and local communities pause to remember those trying days and their place in local history, Amos is sharing some of his photographs in a public installation downtown that he hopes will focus attention on the community’s resilience, rather than the hate that was on display.
“The Unite the Right events left people in Charlottesville dazed … and changed some people’s lives,” he said. “Charlottesville is more than just the place where this happened. I wanted to tell the story from our point of view, so anyone on the Downtown Mall can see things that make us a community.”
Amos’s project is among several activities set to commemorate the fifth anniversary of white supremacist groups’ charge through the University and Charlottesville five years ago this week. Others include the ringing of the University Chapel bells on Grounds, UVA exhibits and a panel discussion.
On Thursday at noon, the University will observe a moment of silence for the victims of Aug. 11 and 12, and ring a special peal of bells from the chapel.
The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library has launched a new exhibition, “No Unity Without Justice: Student and Community Organizing During the 2017 Summer of Hate,” on display in its First Floor Gallery through Oct. 29. The exhibit was largely curated by UVA alumni who took part in the anti-fascist counter-protests in the summer of 2017 when they were students.
Starting in the fall 2017, UVA Library curators teamed with the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library to collect images, videos, objects and stories about the events from the local community. At the same time, digital preservationists were gathering rally-related tweets, photos and postings online before they disappeared, including hateful speech from sources such as 4chan.
The UVA Library formed a Digital Collecting Emergency Response Group, which sought advice from other institutions that had experienced tragedies in their communities. In addition to the special collections exhibit, a digital archive, “University of Virginia Collection on Events in Charlottesville, VA, August 11-13, 2017,” shows many of the items UVA Library staff collected in the days after the rally.
Also on Thursday, the UVA School of Law’s Karsh Center for Law and Democracy and the University’s Jewish Studies Program will host an online panel discussion at 3 p.m., “The Legacies of Charlottesville: A Fifth-Anniversary Conversation About Law and Democracy in America.”
The panelists will discuss the legacies of the August 2017 events in the national landscape of American law and politics. Participants include UVA Law professor Micah Schwartzman, who directs the Karsh Center; Slate senior editor Dahlia Lithwick, author of the new book, “Lady Justice: Women, the Law, and the Battle to Save America”; and UVA history professor James Loeffler, director of the Jewish Studies Program.
To register for the online event, go to the webinar registration page.
Amos, who works at the UVA Library, is displaying “The Story of Us: Reclaiming the Narrative of #Charlottesville Through Portraits of Community Resilience,” starting Wednesday on the Downtown Mall. The installation, which comprises 36 large photographs in the trees on the mall, progresses in a loop from the Omni Hotel end to the Ting Pavilion and back again.
Each 10-foot by 8-foot image will be accompanied by a QR code that connects to an audio clip with individuals talking about moments captured in the photographs.
The photos aim to offer views of healing as well as show the resilience of Charlottesville residents, Amos said. In recent months, he’s been recording participants’ reactions to go with the photos, many of which he took the day after that tumultuous weekend. People gathered on 4th Street Southeast to mourn the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer after Unite the Right follower James Alex Fields drove his car into the crowd. Many others suffered injuries as well, and two Virginia State Police officers monitoring the rally from the air died when their helicopter crashed in Albemarle County later that afternoon.
“I want [viewers] to be transported and live these moments,” Amos said of the installation, which will stay up for seven weeks.
Amos will participate in a town hall-style presentation at the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library’s Central Branch on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
The public also is invited to join a guided walking tour of the photo installation on Sunday at 11 a.m., meeting at the water fountain near the 2nd Street Northeast. Both events are free and open to the public.
Charlottesville officials said they plan to close Heather Heyer Way (4th Street Southeast), from East Market Street to East Water Street from 6 p.m. on Thursday through 6:30 a.m. on Sunday.